Non-state armed groups

Dozens of armed groups in at least 16 different countries are reported to have recruited girls and boys and used them in many different capacities in armed conflict since January 2011.

There is enormous diversity among these groups including in size, capacity and organisational structures. In many cases the groups fight in opposition to states. In others, although not officially part of the government armed forces they receive political, financial, logistical and other support from states or are otherwise allied to states.

This complex picture means that strategies to protect children from recruitment and use by armed groups must be developed on the basis of detailed analysis of individual groups and the contexts in which they operate.

Approaches can include seeking their compliance with international standards which prohibit them from recruiting and using under-18s. Some progress has been achieved here by the UN - which has agreed action plans to end the use of child soldiers with several non-state armed groups in recent years – and independent humanitarian organizations.

States, however, also have responsibilities to take all feasible measures to protect children from recruitment and use by non-state armed groups. The types of protective measures possible depend on the context: the influence of states on the practices of armed groups with which they are allied is likely to be greater than those that they are fighting against. There are nevertheless, minimum steps which all governments must take, including criminalising the recruitment and use of children by non-state armed groups.

Our work aims to:

  • Contribute information, analysis and recommendations to UN and other stakeholders to support and strengthen their interventions to achieve compliance by non-state armed groups to international standards prohibiting the recruitment and use of children.
  • Develop improved knowledge and understanding of the nature of state responsibilities to protect children against recruitment and use by non-state armed groups, and provide practical recommendations on the measures that can be taken.
  • Pressure states to use their influence to end child recruitment by allied armed groups and hold states accountable when they do not.
Continue to Accountability

Further Reading:

Displayed below are Reports and News Items from our archive relating to Non-state armed groups.